One Month Into 2020 And The World Just Set Another Heat Record

January 2020 was just a smidge warmer than January 2016 (the hottest year on record), surpassing it by 0.3°C. Edmund O'Connor/Shutterstock

Last summer, 400 all-time temperature records were broken across the globe – an achievement we certainly shouldn't be celebrating. Various months were the hottest they’ve ever been, and it seems that worrying trend has tailed us into the new year. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS), last month was officially the hottest January in its data record.

At 0.77°C higher than the 1981-2010 January average, January 2020 was just a smidge warmer than January 2016, surpassing it by 0.3°C. 2016 holds the accolade for the warmest year on record thanks to a combination of climate change and the El Niño climate cycle. The fact that 2020 is currently beating 2016 is a bleak reminder of the impacts that human activity is having on the world.

The past five years have been the hottest we’ve seen, and experts warn that this trend is only set to continue. Politicians must act now and act drastically to curb the planet-heating carbon emissions wreaking havoc on the world’s delicate climate.

According to the CCCS, most of Europe experienced an unusually warm January this year, particularly countries in the east and north of the continent. Some nations were hit with temperatures more than 6°C above average.

Monthly global-mean and European-mean surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1981-2010, from January 1979 to January 2020. The darker coloured bars denote the January values. Data source: ERA5. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF

Nordic nations, known for their chilly climes, had an unusually toasty January. Norway had its warmest January day on record and its second warmest January since 1900. Meanwhile, Finland experienced its hottest January since 1961. The CCCS notes that in Sweden, both reindeer herders and skiers were negatively impacted by the warmer climate.

Above-average temperatures were found across most of Russia, spreading into Asia to reach Japan, parts of eastern China, and parts of Southeast Asia. The mercury also rose higher than average in January in both Antarctica and Australia’s New South Wales, which has been ravaged by unprecedented wildfires in recent months.  

However, while January was, on average, the warmest one on record, not everywhere experienced above-average temperatures. Parts of southern Europe experienced temperatures a little below average, as did the Carpathian Basin and parts of the Svalbard archipelago. Outside Europe, temps were below the 1981-2010 average over Alaska and northwestern Canada, as well as over Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island.

While climate deniers might use this as “evidence” to support their damaging dismissal of the global climate crisis, it is clear from the data that the Earth’s overall trend is to a warmer world, one that will become continuously more unliveable for both people and animals. Only with severe policy changes can we mitigate this warming and guarantee our planet’s future.  

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